Rare for me to share such things, but this is a really useful list of resources. Take a moment and see just what you can learn for free on the inter web.]]>
No one knew really what to expect. It’s difficult to relate how far this town is from anywhere else, and the skatepark is small – but concrete and has had rave reviews. It was worth it to me just to get the chance to skate it again, having made the trip twice already this summer. The skater population in and around Newport isn’t that big, so this ambitious event, planned with contests, prizes, vendors selling all manner of things including food and live bands was very much under the heading of “if you build it they will come”.
Setting up the Half Dead booth within easy eyesight of the park, I noticed a good number of skaters already having a great time skating, clearly stoked and riding hard. I knew a few of them so occasionally went over to take a few runs. Such a fantastic positive attitude, supportive and vocal, they had none of the sneers and jeers that can come with sessions like this. All manner of styles were represented as well. Some even clearly in the “I don’t have a specific style” bucket as they ripped on Welcome boards and longboard trucks and wheels showing up more conventionally kitted contemporaries. It was just a wonderful mish mash of all that is good about skateboarding, in one micro environment on one day.
As the afternoon progressed, the sessions on the park became even more heated, but never bad tempered. It became normal for there to be three or four skaters in the park at once, doing high speed lines and missing each other only by good luck and loose trucks. The stoke level grew higher though, and it was then I noticed something happening that I’d seen before, but always strikes me as unique whenever I see it. The age range of skaters that day was probably 6 to 50, and all were having a brilliant time, mutually supporting and appreciating each others skating. That is a wonderful thing to behold. How many other activities / sports can you think of that have mutual participation at all age ranges together, with all the cultural unspoken rules and norms fully in effect with no policing? I can’t think of even one other, and it is this I know to be true. Skateboarding can bring together people of all ages, sexes and creeds in an incredibly positive way.
As I was packing up the booth to return home later in the evening, one of the organizers came over to thank me for participating. I brought up the subject of the hugely positive vibe at the event and she relayed something I thought I’d share. (With apologies for accuracy – I am openly paraphrasing here)
“This town has a lot of problems with kids on drugs and alcohol, in bad family situations and few positive role models. When we (parks and rec) built the skatepark, parents and local officials were skeptical, and it was not long before the typical stereotypes were being voiced openly such as
What we’ve found is that the park serves as a focal and meeting point where kids and their parents and older skaters can mix and focus on something that takes their attention away from bad influences. It’s really easy for a kid to rapidly go down a very dark road in this town, so anything that shows a different path, where they’re getting exercise and respect for their work is incredibly valuable. The fact that older skaters are here also helps them understand the respect across generations, and helps them in their behavioral decisions. I can’t stress enough how valuable that is, and people like you are a big part of it. You’re 50 and mixing it up with the young guns and you’re both appreciating each other’s talent and style. It’s a huge thing. Huge.”
I thanked her for her kind words and we finished the conversation. Driving home, I had a chance to lull over that days events and conversations, and I couldn’t help smiling. We didn’t sell a damned thing, but the day was so valuable in so many other ways. I couldn’t help but feel a lovely warm glow inside. It’s one of the reasons why I’ll be a skater for life.
Well played Newport Parks and Rec. Well played. You just put the Burlington area (biggest metro area in the state) to shame.
My first lab memories were of a black lab mix called Scamp. My sister and I loved that dog. We took him to Scotland for a year, living in a caravan while Dad fixed sewage pipes in the Clyde estuary. It was a weird childhood. One day he simply vanished. Scamp I mean – not Dad – who stayed and is with us to this day happily tending to his cement garden and ignoring his age. We were not happy, and I took a pet sheep as a hasty substitute (I am from Lincoln after all).
Next came a golden lab mix we called Kim. She was a sweet dog, always fun and attentive and very bright and loyal.
This picture is from around 1972, when we moved from the big metropolis of Lincoln (Sarcasm intended) having recently trying to argue with the back door handle of a Morris Oxford and having most of my right arm taken off, Mum and Dad decided that living in the country would be way less hazardous and I may actually live to see maturity.
After Kim passed, we didn’t get another dog as a family. My sister had left home to get married, and she had a mutt who was part whippet and part lab I think. I went off on my adventures, and finally settled in Hartlepool, where I became step dad to a giant German Shepherd named Jack. He was a huge beast of a dog. We used to walk along the tops of the dunes next to the sea, where I would find old car tires and roll them down to the beach below. Jack would go down, pick the whole tire up in his mouth and carry it back up the dune as if nothing. We used to do this until he was finally tired. We had great fun, Jack and I. The marriage was unstable though and we ended up living in Sunderland, where I could take jack down to the beach, but the apartment we had wasn’t good for a huge dog.
When the marriage ended Jack stayed with her, and she eventually had him put down. No warning, no “would you like him” – nothing. I heard a few weeks later and was really upset.
Fast forward a few years, and I’ve married again, living in the USA and decide it’s time fro a dog once more. We were living in a rural house, and I was working out of a home office so I wanted company. I decided this time it was a rescue dog I wanted. For some reason, finding myself 40 miles north at a shelter, I was found by a lovable little black lab mix. She had white paws, and a white chest and we connected just like that. I adopted her, and took her home.
The first night back, I had made a bed for her in the basement with food and water, but she wasn’t having any of that. Oh no – she wanted to be with the rest of the family. A mournful howling finally made us cave in and she came happily to the main house, where she settled in and made it her own. I stole a name from an old friend of mine back in the UK and called her Defor (D for Dog)
We had amazing adventures. The house was close to hills where we took long walks. There was a pond nearby where she ran in after a stick and came out with her leg badly gashed by something under the water. The Vet and I were on speaking terms after a while. She developed a hematoma in her abdomen that affected her urination, so we took her to have it removed via a splenectomy. It weighed 10 pounds! On a 75 pound dog!.
Which brings me to right now. Defor is 13 now, and definitely in the later stages of her life. Yesterday she suffered a seizure, and we spent all day at vets and ferrying her around for treatments. She’s ok for now, but it’s a wake up call of her impending demise. I don’t like that. I don’t like that one bit, but I do love that dog! I hope she’s around for a while longer.
Oh – and for those of the Buddhist persuasion – it is purely coincidental that Defor has almost exactly the same build and markings as Scamp did all those years ago. Or is it?
Defor died last week. Luckily while My daughter was with me, although I felt really bad for my ex having to deal with that. I went round the next morning with my daughter and we grieved together, then took her to the funeral home for cremation. I got the ashes back yesterday and I’m still numb. Can’t believe she’s gone.
I’m under some pressure now to get another dog, which will probably happen but not right away. I resisted getting one while Defor was alive – it just didn’t seem right. Soon though.
Rest in peace my old friend.]]>
The change is going to be with my life and work routines. I haven’t been in regular work since 2012, and it is going to be a shock to get back into the rhythm necessary to work like this. Normal days consist of getting up around 6, showering etc then setting off to whichever practice is on the schedule that day. Spending a few hours with them where you go through a series of carefully planned meetings and activities, then returning to the office for reporting, follow up and planning for the next day. Every day. It’s – well – it’s work, as the rest of the world sees it. I know i’ve done it so much before that it will take a couple of days before it becomes normal once more, but the anticipation of that transition period is scary as hell.
That wouldn’t be so bad if that were all that were happening in the next month. Last week I also was asked to take on a project with a hospital system which is working on implementing process improvements which result in achieving the requirements of the “meaningful use” designation. Basically this is a series of requirements of a practice that pertain to the implementation of their Electronic Health Record (EHR) and practice management systems. It’s good stuff. I’ve seen enough examples where practices have dove headlong into implementing an EHR system because they were being incentivized to do so, without really understanding what that would do to the day to day workflow of a practice. The Meaningful Use requirements and subsequent designation have been thought out well so that achieving this status will ensure the practice has a baseline level of competency in not just the implementation of the electronic systems, but the usage and interfacing of them also. Of course, practices are not doing this for the good of their health (pun intended). They are being guided in this direction by medicare rules from the Center for Medicare Services (CMS) which assign levels of procedural reimbursement based on your standing regarding these criteria. Not doing this can cause a powerful hit to the financial picture of a practice, so it is in their best interests to make sure it happens.
All of that is going to happen in the last two weeks of July, before the main work with the Blueprint for Health, which has eaten into my mental preparation time even further. It’s good though. I can use the kickstart, and the knowledge is going to be very transferable to the new project as well. Better service for my clients.
Lastly – personal changes are rife right now. My divorce has finally been filed, and we are now in the process of splitting up final assets. It’s been a long time since separation but we have used that time to resolve all our issues and design a life that works for us and our daughter. I’m happy and proud of the way we’ve managed to do this and insulate her from the majority of the change that could have been if things had been more acrimonious. We even did it without lawyers! (Well – we did use mediators but that was a good experience also).
So it’s all about change right now. As with any change, it can be good and bad. I’m concentrating on the good, and minimizing the possibilities for the bad. The corner has been turned. I feel better. I’m excited. I’m ready to hit the road again.]]>
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A little recap is in order. Earlier in this blog you’ll have noticed i referred to my non vanilla past regarding employment situations. I’ve been unfortunate in having some bosses who were the embodiment of the Dilbert syndrome, some who have been out and out psychos and one (yes ONE) who had the savvy and skills to get the absolute best out of me – and she left for another company mid way through my tenure. The universe can be an unforgiving monster.
It can also be the provider of the strangest sequences of events. I started a skateboard business to supplement my consulting business because it was something I wanted to do at this stage of my life. It’s a tough business to survive and thrive in. The skateboard business is nowadays about 10% product development and 90% sales and marketing. I have the product development part down pat – it’s something I’ve been doing for the last 30 years in some form or other. The sales and marketing part – well that’s another story. I’m naturally good at systems. I can take a set of circumstances, resources and desired outputs and construct the most effective system for achieving them in the most efficient way possible for just about anything. The actual engagement in the sales process one to one though? Well sure – I can do it, but it’s always been somewhat unnatural for me. I have the unfortunate encumbrance of a totally honest subconscious. If I don’t believe 100% in the product or service I am selling I can’t be convincing when selling it. It’s just how I’m wired. I’ve been put in that position many times in my working life, and I hate it. I’ll avoid it at all costs, and when forced to do it – well things can get ugly really fast.
Marketing I’ve always had something of a natural affinity for though. I like dreaming up ways to convey a message that will resonate with people. I like analysis and segmentation of that customer base and the targeting methods used to get the message across. It’s the creative part of running a company that has always been the counterbalance of the analytical parts for me. I’ve had a blast doing this with Half Dead Skateboards. It’s cathartic, and even though it’s not making money yet, I love it like a child.
Problem is – to do sales and marketing right takes massive amounts of energy and skill. If you don’t have that yourself, you have to buy it by hiring people either as employees or consultants. I just didn’t have the funds to do that, and my life is complicated enough that I didn’t have the hours I needed to do it myself, so the sales performance of the company has not been all it could be. Because of that – it has not been the provider of resources I wanted. That is its only downside though. I’m still having a blast.
My consulting business has been somewhat stagnant also. I’m working on TransformU and have put together the structure of operations, but the content is complex and takes time and energy to complete correctly. It’s a long term project of mine and I’m committed to it but it isn’t going to generate cashflow any time soon. I’ve been applying for job after job after job in the hope that something may happen, but I have had spectacular failures in actually landing anything.
These circumstances led to me bleeding my bank accounts dry the last year or so. So badly in fact that the next two months have become critical. By “critical” I mean having to liquidate retirement assets to survive now. (I know this is in some respects a “white persons problem”, but it’s scary as hell. i can’t imagine what it would be like to literally not have a roof over your head and no way of getting one). This has made my anxiety complex significantly worse, which has restricted my capabilities in doing any of the other things. It’s a giant negative spiral of doom, and I have been caught in it.
Despite this. I’ve always tried to keep a positive attitude somewhat, and trust that something would come along. My girlfriend has been instrumental in this – helping me get in touch with my spiritual side a lot and trusting in the universe. So – imagine my surprise when – like busses – two opportunities come along at the same time! One is a contract that I’ve won and can start in August. The other is a potential position that could work very well. I’m somewhat in shock, but am powering ahead in figuring out how to make these all work given the limited funds I have now.
I can’t believe it frankly. Right at the eleventh hour, these came through. The Universe truly shall provide, and I’ve given up (finally) trying to explain how or why. Thank you!]]>
So the magazines that fed our skateboard dreams filled with golden skies and curved concrete bowls and awesome guys and girls dressed in actual clean sparkly primary colored clothing were the most prized possessions a skater could have. We couldn’t believe that this land existed where it was almost always warm, sunny and beautiful. It truly was mystical. So mystical that when visiting pro skaters would come over, I’d occasionally be lucky enough to be in their crowd hanging with them and could hear all the questions going on. I distinctly remember one of our crew asking Rodney Mullen “What’s the weather like in California?” And the bemused look on his face as he processed this (which we find out 20 years later is actual genius level craziness, but I digress), finally managing to blurt out “kinda like here I guess” as he pointed to the one warm, blue sky over London we had had this century.
By 1984 I had had it – something snapped and a combination of hormones, shitty life choices, desperation at not being included on possibly the greatest scam ever perpetrated on the funding bodies of English skateboarding led me me to quit my job, sell my car and book a flight to San Diego to finally sample the California dreams for real. I was sponsored by Gullwing Trucks at the time, and my team boss, Jim Goodrich had graciously agreed to host me for a few days. I went off on my big adventure, almost dying in St. Louis in a storm landing, but finally making it. I rode at Del Mar, was slightly in awe at all the pros in my magazines gathered in one spot, ran over Hawk in a game of skate tag, hung with Steve Claar and John Hogan a lot, went to some parties where people beat each other up… All good clean California fun. Then I got bored, or homesick, or lovesick or a combination of all of those things and cut the magical trip short and went home. I’d been, done and ticked it off of the the list. It was time to head back and get somewhat serious.
Except I didn’t. My propensity for making shitty life choices was still very much front and center, and I started out on a string of disastrous relationships, marriages, kids, college and moving that would pretty much consume me for the next 25 years or so as I struggled to make a “life” happen. But I digress. There was a natural break and a not so shitty life choice in the middle of it when I got a job with Burton in Vermont and emigrated to the USA, leaving behind my flat homeland for good.
1998 came along and it was time to move along with it. Freshly issued green card in hand, I was free to work anywhere, and once more California reared its golden head, so I ended up in San Francisco working for Vans. It wasn’t bad as cities went, but too much like England with the shitty cold damp weather. The one saving grace was I had to go to LA every few weeks to meet with head office types, which I loved. Of the two cities I preferred LA infinitely over SF. When I tell people they look at me like I’ve just told them I prefer eating human babies over oranges, but that’s their problem I suppose. I just liked the warmth, people, even the driving. Wonderful things, like the Taco Trucks, the ethnicity and the no apologies California candy coated shell over everything. I drank it all in.
2000 and both the tech bubble and my own personal bubble burst, so headed back to Vermont to work for an outfit helping manufacturers throughout the state. It was ok as jobs went, but personality issues with the boss didn’t help and eventually it became another “I’m done” situation. Anyhow – you can see the pattern. I’m still here, about to be divorced for the second time and making yet another new life while still trying like hell to be the Dad I need to be for my daughter.
Which brings me to the present day, and the purpose of this blog post. In two days time, I am going to LA once more to meet my old buddy Brian Shaw and his wife Christine who are vacationing out there. My girlfriend Jodie is coming along as she needs to get some warmth and sun desperately too. I’m going to be skating, touristing, meeting people and skate shops to market and sell Half Dead Skateboards. It’s been almost 14 years since I’ve been there and I can’t wait. I’ll be posting to here and to Facebook as I go. I hope I can remember to come back!]]>
There is a maxim in the world that is derided when young and regretted when old, and that maxim is “everything was better when we were younger”. Younger people look down on the elders as out of touch, not knowing what’s happening and generally unhip. Elders look down on the youngsters as out of control, reckless, arrogant and lazy. It happens with every generation, and it’s been happening to me lately, so I thought I’d look into it.
1. It’s all too bloody fast
The internet is amazing. It’s changed life beyond comprehension and it’s done it in such a short space of time that there are really two kinds of people on the planet now. Those who are plugged in as naturally as breathing, and those who remember rotary dial telephones and huge phone bills. The expectations have changed, and I’m not convinced it’s for the better. How can you possibly make good decisions about anything when you’re being pinged every three seconds by people you met once about subjects that have no consequence to life? Of course this makes me possibly the hugest hypocrite on the planet, as until about 3 years ago I was one of the hard charging on the cutting edge types maintaining 700 friendships on Facebook. Over the last six months though I’ve realized it just sucks time from your life.
Malcolm Gladwell in his book “The Tipping Point” describes the phenomenon of human social groups ceasing to function effectively past 150 members. A fundamental characteristic of the way our minds are wired seems to be the culprit. It happens in all walks of life. Army units rarely go above 150 members. Corporations typically pay no heed to this and blindly go ahead and grow wildly, puffing their corporate chests in a display of “look how great we are”. Then wonder why their performance levels drop like a stone once the size has gone beyond that where peer pressure is ineffective as a control mechanism and it is is replaced by ever more byzantine command and control systems. In a smaller group where people actually KNOW each other, the implicit contract of those relationships forms the control mechanism of activity because of the powerful need to not disappoint your fellow group member.
What does that mean in the modern world? If you have more than 150 friend anywhere who you rely on for getting thing done, in whatever medium, you’re literally burning yourself out. If those friends are in an online medium, it’s much worse as they interact constantly. This is a tough lesson to learn as an older person, and I am willing to bet that anyone under 30 will read this and conclude it is all bald faced lies. It’s not. Wait until you’re at this stage and you too can have that God awful realization that you’re old.
2. There are just too many bloody people
As a part of my biotechnology degree, I studied population dynamics. It’s governed by a few simple rules. Any living organism populating any given environment will grow in numbers. Driven by the most basic instinct to survive and reproduce, it will do so until something stops it. That something is usually one of three things.
A. It runs out of space and / or physical resources.
Pretty self explanatory really. We need stuff to survive and if the availability of that stuff declines it is harder to get enough to sustain new members of the species. It’s survival of the fittest stuff. War is generally the result.
B. It starts to be affected by its own waste streams.
Most personal waste by definition is stuff that is toxic to the body. That’s why it needs to be removed. As the concentration of that stuff in huge environment increases, it affects each member, reducing their ability to live and reproduce. As the levels increase to toxicity, entire populations die. Only those able to adapt will survive.
C. It is ravaged by a new disease variant.
Bubonic Plague in the Middle Ages? AIDS in the 80’s? We see these all the time, but modern science has fought this battle quite successfully to this point.
So – in 2014 with a population of almost 7 billion people on the planet, looking through these lenses produces a pretty bleak picture. As all these new people consume resources (in disproportionate amounts it has to be said) there is less to go round, it becomes more expensive and economics regulates supply and demand. Until critical resources are threatened and then population groups mobilize to eliminate other groups to ensure their supply. War, basically.
I saw an article yesterday about a giant jumbo tron screen in Beijing that actually shows sunrise and sunset to remind people what it looks like! The pollution is so bad that people can’t see the sun. Radiation, mercury, carcingens…. All rising.
Modern science (aka the pharmaceutical industry) makes huge strides to eradication of disease all the time. Of course we have evolution to battle constantly. It’s not a pretty scenario, unless you happen to run a pharmaceutical company in which cases you’re rolling in cash.
3. There are not enough jobs to occupy the increasing population and enablem them to thrive
This one is at the very root of most economic issues we have today. It’s also the one that is continually batted around like some political football between whichever parties are ruling in your own country. Whenever anyone says to me now “there are too many people on welfare. We have to stop it and get the back to work” I always respond ” Where are the jobs?” Because believe me, I know unemployment, and I know unemployed and the vast majority of people if given the opportunity would jump at the chance of a meaningful job that paid enough for them to live on. Without available jobs, people can’t get jobs. That sentence seems like it must be incontrovertible, but it is in fact avoided endlessly as politicians drone on about “giving tax breaks to the job creators” and “reducing obstructions to development”. Capitalism, and especially the all out American version of it is responsible for the systematic destruction of working jobs in the Western Hemisphere. Technology advances, yielding productivity improvements have enabled us to produce vast amounts of stuff in ever more complicated mixes with almost no people. Problem is, without those people having jobs and disposable income, they can’t buy the stuff being made. Seems like a disconnect there somewhere doesn’t it? Give people work, guarantee their safety with a say in the way their employers are run and a single payer health system not linked to employment and see how things start to improve.
Please don’t ever tell me that people are just lazy and don’t want to work. It’s degrading, and inhuman and quite frankly bollocks. If you really think that, you should have every cent you have taken away for a while so you can experience true poverty and the attitude adjustments that requires,]]>
Once driving had become a normal part of life, the little differences between UK and American driving became apparent. There are many many aspects that are very similar, but there are a couple which have caused endless frustration over the years, and continue to do so today. I’ve tried my hardest to understand, but even now I’m stumped, so will someone please tell me WHY CANT AMERICANS USE A ROUNDABOUT???
This is a roundabout (or a rotary as it’s called here). It’s a deceptively simple traffic management device, with only a few simple rules that enable four steams of traffic to interact in a speedy yet safe manner, so long as everyone knows the rules of how they work. I’ve experienced difficulties in the way these things are used so many times (like – almost every time) that I thought some light instruction would be in order.
The first issue is that Americans are very familiar with the four way stop sign, and the manner in which that is used. Rules are pretty simple. Whoever gets to the junction first and stops has the right to proceed first. If two of you get to the junction first, the one to the right has right of way. If all four get to the junction at exactly the same time, a little negotiation ensues until someone goes, then the right hand rule applies.
The problem is that a rotary is NOT a four way stop. There’s no requirement to stop at all, so long as you have a clear exit path to your journey through it. You can happily barrel through it at speed, using those wonderful things in cars known as suspension components to steer the car round the rotary. The rules are pretty simple, and basically are as follows:
If you’re in the red car and you approach the rotary while a car is exiting past you down the other side of the road you are traveling on, and your exit is clear, you can enter the rotary at speed and exit at whatever exit you choose. You don’t need to stop. Also, the act of entering the rotary gives you RIGHT OF WAY over any other cars entering the rotary. Cars can’t cut you off in other words.
This is the first major rule of the rotary. CARS TO THE LEFT HAVE RIGHT OF WAY.
If the car already on the rotary is turning left in front of you, IT HAS RIGHT OF WAY, and you can’t enter the rotary until it has cleared.
That’s it! The more I experience this the more I have come to the conclusion that Americans are so conditioned to the rules of the four way stop (and the traffic ticket and fine associated with the act of not stopping) that they apply those rules and fears to the the rotary. I think this is why when they drive in Europe they can sit paralyzed at the entrance of a roundabout unable to proceed until some exasperated soul lets them in. Then it’s quite normal for them to be unable to exit. Once you’re used to the system, it speeds things up dramatically with no increase in accident rate.
So, if you’re a hesitant rotary user, PLEASE take a look and familiarize yourself with this. It’ll be better for all of us, I promise.
This was a public service announcement from Grumpy Old Brits Inc.]]>
It hasn’t been that way for almost all the Christmas period though. The panic attacks from the previous post continued, waxing and waning occasionally but producing the most troubling sensations. Sleep of course has been sporadic, and getting into the Christmas spirit almost impossible. You plod on though and get on with it like a stoical Englishman should and take day by day.
We went over to my partners parents on Christmas afternoon and evening. This is not a trivial matter, as they live across the lake which necessitates a ferry journey so takes a lot longer than the 30 or so miles would suggest it should. This was the first meeting with my daughter, so obviously this added to the stress levels somewhat. As it turned out she was pretty well behaved and they adored her, so all was well there. It was just a nice, pleasant evening. We didn’t get back until late, then she had to take her dog back to her house, so we all were exhausted when hitting the sack.
Yesterday we decided to head up to the local mountain to ski. It was snowing lightly which made the mountain access road treacherous. I passed at least 4 front wheel drive cars with out of state plates stuck up the hills unable to gain traction in the super slippery conditions. I felt bad for them, but they really should know how to drive in snow if they’re headed up this particular road. It should have signs or something too. It’s not for the faint hearted.
I’ve purposely switched off from all business matters for the last few days to try and give my head a chance to clear and get back in the groove. I’m looking forward to picking up the reins again in a few days and hitting the ground hard with Half Dead sales, distribution and product development. There are exciting things happening and if all comes to plan, 2014 is going to be an incredible year.
So this is a bit of a rambler once more, but it’s therapeutic for me, so if you like it all the better. If not – well try the next one!]]>